05/02/2015 06:54 GMT | Updated 05/02/2015 06:59 GMT

Jeremy Vine Sparks Outrage With 'Five-Figure' Speech To Arms Dealers

Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine has been accused of tarnishing the reputation of the BBC for speaking at a £246-per-head dinner for arms dealers.

Vine, who is going to play a leading role in the corporation's General Election coverage, is reported to have made the appearance at the ADS dinner earlier this week for a "five-figure" sum.

The controversial event, hosted at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London, was interrupted at the start by a speech by an anti-arms trade campaigner, who dramatically tore the assembled arms dealers, urging them to "think on what you do and reconsider your jobs!"

Senior politicians joined Vine at the dinner, including business secretary Vince Cable, who sat at the top table with the BBC presenter and also gave a speech.

He last year came under fire for failing to back an arms embargo against Israel in favour of a "very weak" threat to suspend 12 export licences if violence breaks out again in the region.

The Lib Dem minister sat with Labour's Vernon Coaker, the shadow defence secretary, and the heads of the ADS, the trade body for UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space industries.

Vine's appearance at the dinner sparked a backlash from anti-arms trade campaigners and social media users.

Andrew Smith, from Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: "The BBC is meant to stand for freedom of speech and high quality journalism, yet one of its best known personalities was speaking to a room full of arms dealers who profit from repression around the world.

''It's outrageous that the government actively supports and promotes this deadly trade. The fact that arms dealers were swilling champagne with over 40 MPs is a disgrace and shows the extent of the arms trade's connections and political lobbying."

The BBC distanced itself from the presenter, with a spokesman telling the Huffington Post UK: ‘Jeremy is a freelance presenter and so can make personal appearances without speaking on behalf of the BBC, as he did here.’

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